FITBUG ORB REVIEW
The Orb is Fitbug's latest fitness gadget: a button-sized wireless fitness tracker that's built for 24/7 duty (other than showers and rain). It tracks sleep, steps, estimates calories burned, and lets you enter calories consumed and workouts that the device can't recognize.
The Fitbug Orb Basics
The Fitbug Orb is a 24/7 device (aside from showers and rain) that tracks sleep, steps, and estimates calories burned. It also tracks something Fitbug calls "aerobic steps," which are steps taken after taking an initial 10 minutes of continuous stepping (the assumption being that extended exercise should be tracked differently than the short 30 seconds of walking between the water filter and your desk you may make throughout the day). The Orb lets you set fitness goals, manually log workouts like cycling and yoga that the device can't accurately track, and log foods (and it calculates the resulting calories consumed). The app also reports live feedback on your "walking zone" so you know whether to speed up or slow down to be in the right zone to experience the optimal health benefits from walking.
The Orb features Bluetooth syncing to your mobile iOS device for convenient for seamless and effortless data transfer, bringing the Orb on-par with syncing features of devices like the Amiigo, FitBit One, Flex, Striiv Play, UP24, and BodyMedia FIT LINK. The data goes from the Orb to your phone (where you can see it on the app), and from your phone to cloud storage (so that you'll be able to see your data on the website). Or, if you want to sync directly to your Mac or PC, you can do so by purchasing and attaching to your computer a $14.99 syncing dongle. The app is not comprehensive: some information and some functions are only available via the website.
On the positive side, the tracker features a choice of syncing modes to help you save battery life: continuous, beacon (set it to send at an interval, like every half hour), or only on-demand. And, speaking of battery power, the Fitbug Orb doesn't require any re-charging. It's powered by a common watch battery that only needs replacing about every 6 months months.
It's surprising that Fitbug advertises that the Orb is "Display-free!" on their website, as if that's a feature. From my experience using the Jawbone UP, FitBit One, Basis and Striiv Play, and from reading others' experiences, many people prefer to have an on-screen display so that they can monitor realtime progress with a quick glance and without always having to take their phone on a jog with them and/or fire up the phone, and navigate to and open the app. I've never heard anyone complain about having an on-device display. It's true that some users of their older models, the Fitbug Go and Fitbug Air have been critical of the company's monochromatic digital-watch-style displays that feel like an old-school pedometer. But those users were criticizing the execution of the idea, not the usefulness of the display itself.
Still, many other successful trackers out there are "display-free," including the BodyMedia FIT trackers, Jawbone UP, the Larklife Lark band (since discontinued), and the Amiigo fitness bracelet, to name a few. It's just strange to tout it as something to get excited about.
Let the People Speak
Based on my own fitness tracker preferences, I know this is not the tracker for me, and I don't plan to test one out first-hand.
However, it might be right for someone out there who isn't me. So, below, I've summarized some of people's reactions and linked to some useful reviews from around the web, with the hope that these can help you decide whether the Orb is right for you.
To take a step back and look at FitBug more broadly as a whole company, customers of FitBug's older products (the FitBug Air and Fitbug Go) have encountered frustrations with the non-watersafe devices, frustrating syncing glitches, very short product return policy that doesn't allow you to try the product out first, and alienating customer service: Read those reviews here and here.
To look at the FitBug Orb in particular, it is still non-watersafe and still has a short return policy. But it is a fresh take on their old products. Here's what consumers have said about the Orb since it became available in August 2013:
FitBug Orb Reviews
"The Orb is not worth the time, money or effort. The bugs haven't been worked out. I've had mine for a month and it still won't load the data without a call to support. There's always something amiss. A glitch with the sleep mode, the new software isn't working with Mac, if streaming isn't working then you have to push the data at least twice to get all the data, etc. There has been no proper testing or quality control of this device. It should be recalled." - Cynthia
We spoke again about a month after the above communication, and her FitBug Orb issues still hadn't improved -- she still wasn't able to sync without help from the support hotline.
Still, the Orb certainly might be perfect for some people. If you don't want to have one more thing to recharge on a regular basis, then the Orb joins the other Fitbug products in the small category of fitness activity trackers that use watch batteries, like the Fitbit Zip.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Features & Added Benefits
The Fitbug Orb tracks sleep, steps, aerobic steps (steps taken after taking an initial 10 minutes of continuous steps), and estimates calories burned. It lets you set fitness goals and log foods (and calculates the resulting calories consumed). The app also reports whether you're walking at 100 steps per minute, a threshold Fitbug cites as being optimal for experiencing the health benefits of walking.
Hardware & Wearing
The plastic, button-sized Orb comes in pink, white, and black and is splash-proof. A single button on the device controls its data-streaming functions. It can be worn on a watch-like wristband (though it doesn't display the time), on a belt clip, in the pocket, in the sleep band, or on a lanyard. A syncing dongle for your computer is sold separately.
Battery Life & Charging
The Orb fitness tracker contains a common watch battery that can last for up to 6 months before needing to be replaced.
The Fitbug Orb syncs wirelessly to your bluetooth 4.0-enabled iOS device. Data can be viewed via the app or the web interface, though the app offers limited data and feature access while the web interface offers the complete range of data and features. To sync to your computer directly, you'll need to buy a separate syncing dongle -- otherwise it will sync via the app on your phone and send data to the website via your phone.
Select iOS devices that are Bluetooth 4.0 enabled as well as a handful of Android devices. Check the company website for the latest list of compatible devices, as they plan to expand compatibility.